Top positive review
EAST OF EDEN  [Special Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import]
on July 15, 2014
EAST OF EDEN  [Special Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Based on John Steinbeck's novel and directed by award-winning director Elia Kazan, East of Eden was James Dean's breakout big-screen performance, one that will forever be remembered in Hollywood history. The emotionally charged film tells the story of lonely youth Cal [James Dean], who vies for the affection of his hardened father [Raymond Massey] and favoured brother, Aron [Richard Davalos].
FILM FACT: Awards Win: Academy Award® for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jo Van Fleet). Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama (Elia Kazan). Golden Globe, Special Achievement Award: Given posthumously for Best Dramatic Actor (James Dean). Cannes Film Festival, Best Dramatic Film (Elia Kazan). Nominations: Academy Award® for Best Actor (James Dean). Academy Award® for Directing (Elia Kazan). Academy Award® for Best Writing and Adapted Screenplay (Paul Osborn). BAFTA Award for Best Film from Any Source. BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor (James Dean). BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer (Jo Van Fleet)
Includes a 32-page book with photos and original film posters, plus: Commentary by Richard Schickel; Forever James Dean Documentary; Vintage Documentary: East of Eden: Art in Search of Life; Vintage Documentary: 1955 New York City Premiere; Actors' Screen Tests; Wardrobe Tests with the Cast and Crew; Deleted Scenes and Theatrical Trailer
Cast: James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Richard Davalos, Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Dekker, Lois Smith, Timothy Carey, Harold Gordon, Barbara Baxley and Lonny Chapman
Director: Elia Kazan
Producer: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: John Steinbeck and Paul Osborn
Composer: Leonard Rosenman
Cinematography: Ted D. McCord
Video Resolution: 1080p [WarnerColor]
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French: Dolby Digital 3.0, German: Dolby Digital 3.0, Italian: Dolby Digital 3.0, Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono, Portuguese: Dolby Digital 2.0, Czech: Dolby Digital Mono, Polish: Dolby Digital 2.0 and Japanese: Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, German SDH, Italian SDH, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hebrew, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Swedish and Turkish
Running Time: 118 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Andrew's Blu-ray Review: `East of Eden' is based upon the acclaimed novel written by John Steinbeck. It was adapted for the screen by Paul Osborn. This production of the book was a gigantic undertaking for its makers, both in terms of what the director and studio brought to the production. Warner Bros. helped make `East of Eden' one of the first films to be made in CinemaScope, a technology meant to pioneer widescreen filmmaking.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Elia Kazan [`On the Waterfront' and `A Streetcar Named Desire'] and introducing the young James Dean to the film-going public this is one of the greatest of Kazan's accomplishments, who was at his absolute best with this masterpiece. He helped to bring forth James Dean's electrifying performance, which to this day still stand's as one of the best debut performances by an actor in a feature film.
James Dean actually got his start in small bit-parts on television programs before landing the big role in East of Eden, which catapulted his career quickly and helped to make him a star. This role is the launching pad that led him to getting the roles in `Rebel Without a Cause' and `Giant' that would so closely follow. It was also the only film of the three he made that James Dean was able to see complete prior to release.
I've never actually read the John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" novel, though the film version by Elia Kazan, as adapted by Paul Osborn, is supposedly only loosely based upon the second half of the book, so those who love the novel might find some issues with this film. Yet I find this story mesmerizing and profound.
It is at least partially a narrative retelling of Cain and Abel. The storyline in East of Eden focuses primarily upon Cal [James Dean], who feels that his love for his father is being rejected and that his father, Adam [Raymond Massey] cares more for his other son Aron [Richard Davalos]. His father is a highly religious man and Cal feels that he cannot live up to his father's idealism. As the storyline progresses, Aron are in a relationship with Abra [Julie Harris] that Cal is jealous about as he has feelings for his brother's girlfriend. Abra, who at first seems to dislike Cal, eventually grows to feel attracted to him.
Abra and Cal begin to spend some time together and they ultimately connect over the feelings they have felt under their upbringing. Abra sees the disappointment and pain Cal feels in not pleasing his father, and in feeling a lack of love. Abra tells Cal about how her own father had given her gifts of great monetary value, but was not there for her and that it made her feel she wasn't loved. This scene, set by the backdrop a beautiful field of golden flowers, is one of the most affecting and profound of the film.
At the start of the story, Cal believed his mother to be dead. Later in the story he discovers she actually is still alive but that his father had been telling Cal and Aron otherwise for all of their years without her. He seeks finding his mother, and when he succeeds he meets Kate [Jo Van Fleet], who Cal discovers runs a brothel. Kate seems to connect to the fact Cal feels rejected from Adam. Cal, still desperate for his father's affection, asks to borrow money from Kate in hoping to sell beans during a war-time shortage so that he can repay his father for ice that he destroyed, belonging to his father. Reluctantly, Kate agrees to loan Cal the money to get this started. Jo Van Fleet won the Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actress. Her performance demonstrated the icy cold character of Kate, who Cal fails to realise that he never looked for him or Aron during all of their years apart.
The conclusion of the film is one that unfolds with brilliant pacing and some of Elia Kazan's most impressive framing of the characters. One of the things I appreciate about `East of Eden,' after how wonderful the performances are, is the nightmarish fervour that Elia Kazan creates with tilted camera angles and bizarre framing that most directors would ignore. This makes the descent Cal's feeling emotional seems to be represented through the ebb and flow of the camera.
`East of Eden' is a genuine American classic. When you think of films with great performances this is a film that easily comes to mind. Dean is so fantastic and so unafraid to be emotionally resonant, that it's shocking to recognize it as a film debut. The supporting performance are so powerful as well, especially the supporting part by Julie Harris, which is so distinct when it's compared to her other performances. I love `East of Eden' and it is one of the first films that were influential on my growing love of cinema and the power of filmmaking. It is a fine work of accomplished art that is worth cherishing and remembering for all of its immense worth and contribution towards the craft of filmmaking. It is truly an amazing tour-de-force, with brilliant characters.
Blu-ray Video Quality - The 1080p encoded image transfer of East of Eden is a strong one indeed. The image retains adequate grain and there is a real sense of richness in the texture of the photography. I certainly find this to be a beautiful film, one with a complex visual quality that is astonishing, largely due to the stylistic choices of Elia Kazan and cinematographer Ted McCord. The original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 has been preserved. The scope ratio effectively helps Elia Kazan create a larger sense of the 'mood' in many of the scenes, especially when he makes things topsy-turvy during the story's darker moments.
The CinemaScope format preserves the film as accurately as possible. This is one of the first films to use the widescreen technology of the time and in that regard it should be considered a pioneering effort. However, I find the use of CinemaScope in East of Eden to be disappointing in comparison to how `Rebel Without a Cause' implemented it and only shortly thereafter. The only real issue with the film is that the scene-change dissolves have some weak detail due to the source limitations. This is not a fault of Warner Bros. or the restoration team at MPI, but it's nonetheless something that has an impact on the visual finesse of the presentation. This minor drawback aside, East of Eden looks stellar in an authentic and well-realised Blu-ray transfer who dramatically demonstrates the importance of film restoration and 4K scanning when preserving films.
Blu-ray Audio Quality - `East of Eden' has received the least impressive sound presentation out of the three films. Unfortunately, the re-mixed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sounded a bit unnatural to me at times. Take for instance, the sequence involving the falling blocks of ice as ruined by an outraged Cal. This scene was particularly troublesome to me as it sounded like an inauthentic expansion to 5.1 surround. The way the sound materials were utilized in this moment (and to a lesser degree some other parts of the film) made it a slightly less enveloping experience. I found it a bit distracting to my viewing. Dialogue clarity is good. The music score by Leonard Rosenman sounds beautiful and very haunting when it needs to be but also uplifting when the story and performances are in need of some emotional grace.
Blu-ray Supplements and Extras:
Commentary by film critic Richard Schickel: Film Critic Richard Schickel discusses the film and as a fan, has seen it many times, but his commentary lacks the detailed presentation that one might expect from a scholar like Jeffrey Vance. Most of Richard Schickel's historical points (e.g. the animosity between James Dean and Raymond Massey) are covered in the "Art in Search of Life" feature. His primary contribution in the commentary is an evaluation of the performances and direction.
Forever James Dean [60:00] This 1988 documentary narrated by Bob Gunton is valuable primarily for its compilation of archival photographs and interviews with childhood acquaintances and other interview subjects who are probably no longer alive. But one doesn't get a strong sense of who Dean was or what made him distinctive.
East of Eden: Art in Search of Life [20:00] Is a documentary with interviews with various individuals who were involved with the making of East of Eden. This documentary short was made in 2005 for Warner's two-disc special edition DVD. It includes informative interviews with Steinbeck's son, Thomas, and Susan Schillinglaw of the Center for Steinbeck Studies, as well as Schickel, Kazan, Harris and others (many via archive footage).
Screen Tests [6:21] In the former domain, we get screen tests between James Dean and Richard Davalos as they perform the discussion between Cal and Aron that we already saw as a deleted scene. It's a decent titbit, though it's too bad we don't see some of the other existing screen tests as well.
Wardrobe Tests: Richard Davalos [3:27]; James Dean and Richard Davalos [3:57 minutes]; James Dean, Julie Harris and Richard Davalos [2:21 minutes]; James Dean and Lois Smith [3:09 minutes]; Lois Smith [2:55 minutes]; James Dean and Jo Van Fleet [0:41 seconds]; Jo Van Fleet [4:21 minutes] and Costumes and Production Design [1:38 minutes].
Deleted Scenes [19:15] It presents a conversation between Cal and Aron about their father's feelings and more of the birthday party for Adam. We get multiple takes of the various shots, so don't expect a full slate of new material. Nothing revealing appears in the party scenes, but the chat between Cal and Aron works well. It fleshes out Cal's character change and might have been a useful addition to the film.
Vintage Documentary: 3/9/1955 NYC Premiere [14:42] This mostly focuses on the activities in front of the theatre. Host Martin Block chats with the following notables as they enter: Margaret Truman, Milton Berle, John Steinbeck, Elia Kazan, Raymond Massey, Eva Marie Saint, Red Buttons, Jack Warner, Denise Darcell, Imogene Coca, Carol Channing, and Joel Grey. Of course, virtually nothing of substance occurs, but it's a fun piece to watch. I particularly liked Steinbeck's very uncomfortable conversation; the author doesn't look happy to be there.
Theatrical Trailer [2:54] What's notable about the trailer, is how much effort has been made to sensationalise the story.
Finally, it is so marvellous to finally have this classic Elia Kazan film in 1080p High Definition. Despite the technical limitations of early CinemaScope filming of East of Eden, it is now a fantastic marvellous film to experience. The cinematography and the colours look tremendous in the presentation MPI have created in restoring the film. James Dean is fantastic in this first big-screen performance. This essential film has never been presented better on Home Theatre media and this release is an essential purchase for fans of classic cinema at its finest and that is why I am so proud to add this brilliant Special Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook, as not only is it beautifully produced, but it is also such and honour to add another James Dean Classic Film to my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller - Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom